Hansa Studios started in the early ’60s as a small recording space in the headquarters of Hansa Music Production. The Hansa Records label was founded in 1962, a year after construction of the Berlin Wall, by brothers Peter and Thomas Meisel.
From 1965 on, Hansa Records started using the Meistersaal (“the hall”) for many of their projects, which was run by the record label Ariola until Hansa took over in 1976. Meistersaal is a historic concert hall built in 1910 as a space for chamber music. From 1991, the concert hall has served as as an event space and is a protected historic site, though it it still available as a live room at Hansa upon request.
Meistersaal would eventually become the legendary Hansa Studio 2 (“The Big Hall by the [Berlin] Wall”). As the studio’s business started to grow, the Meisel brothers officially opened Hansa Tonstudio in the early ’70s, building their own facility to produce independently.
From its humble beginnings, Hansa Studios expanded into a 5-studio complex.
Hansa Studio 1 opened in 1973, and in 1975 the brothers also took over Sonopress Studio, turning it into Hansa Studio 2.
In 1976, the Meisel brothers bought more property in the area—a house which had been damaged by WWII bombing. Gradually, they renovated it and converted the building into a music production house. The mixing studio, called the Hansa Mixroom, was built on the 4th floor.
Next to the Mixroom, the Meisels re-built Studio 1’s replacement after it closed in the late ’70s. Studio 1 was reopened in 1980 and was equipped with the latest in audio recording technology. Remarkably, a training studio was built on the 3rd floor of the Hansa building to help engineers and assistants get acquainted with the latest gear. Around the same time, Hansa Studio 3 was built in a former movie theater on the ground floor for a total of 5 studios!
Hansa Studios was intended to be a complete music production house, from artist development to record release and promotion.
With a total of 5 studios in the complex, multiple projects could be ongoing simultaneously. Hansa Music Production was one of the leading production companies, labels, and music publishing companies in Germany in its prime.
Hits by Mireille Mathieu, Drafi Deutscher, Juliane Werding, Marianne Rosenberg, Manuela, Christian Anders and many more were produced in the facility.
Hansa Studios received worldwide recognition when David Bowie relocated to Berlin.
Bowie wrote his hit Heroes album at Hansa Studios. He recorded a few albums there, and worked alongside his friend Iggy Pop. Low (1977), Heroes (1977), and Baal (1982) were all recorded at Hansa Studios throughout the ’70s and early ’80s.
Because of the studio’s reputation as a powerhouse of music production, the state-of-the art equipment, and exceptional acoustics, particularly inside the Meistersaal, Hansa Studios was considered one of the leading international recording studios.
Hansa Studios’ Meistersaal became famous in the music industry, attracting numerous top acts from around the world.
Artists like U2, Iggy Pop, Depeche Mode, David Bowie, Eartha Kitt, Richard Clayderman, Marillion, Mike Batt, David Byrne, Nick Cave, Snow Patrol, Jon Bon Jovi, and Supergrass all flocked to Hansa to record.
Successful German artists who called the studios home included Peter Maffay, Udo Lindenberg, Udo Jürgens, Roland Kaiser, Nina Hagen, Nena, Marianne Rosenberg, Die Toten Hosen, Heiner Pudelko, Ute Lemper, Reinhard Mey, Max Raabe, and Paul Kuhn.
The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, bringing major change to Hansa Studios.
The Meistersaal was no longer as secluded as it was before, being so close to the Wall. One of the major advantages of its proximity to the Wall was the isolation it afforded. This, of course, was no longer the case when it fell.
At the same time, the demand for recording studios like Hansa was in a slump. Studio 2 was ultimately no longer affordable and was closed, though it went out with the last production being Achtung Baby by U2.
As the music industry landscape changed and the demand for large-scale studios like Hansa declined, the Meisel brothers decided to close Studios 2 and 3 in the early ’90s. Hansa Studio 2 was restored to simply the Meistersaal. The mixing studio and training studio were permanently rented and, from then on, were no longer part of Hansa.
Today, Studio 1 is still active and successful, with access to the Meistersaal available. The complex still serves as an active creative house.
In recent years, bands like Supergrass, The Hives, Snow Patrol, and R.E.M., including many others, have come to make amazing records in a legendary studio. Access to the Meistersaal as a recording space is still available! For example, R.E.M. recorded a live session and Mark Knopfler played a record release concert in the Hall.
The Hansa Studios facility remains one of the most active creative houses in the country. Independent studios and production companies in all genres work together in one of the most legendary recording studios Europe has to offer!